I am supposed to be going to a funeral right now.
Instead, I am wrapped up in a blanket, drinking tea and listening to “Holocene” on repeat. It’s raining
As I’ve written before, village life comes to a halt when the rain comes. The animals do not go out to the fields. There are no women or children at the pump. Everyone stays inside, waiting for a break of sunshine.
It’s September, the beginning of the planting season, and this rain is answered prayer. Last years crop yield was heartbreakingly disappointing from a drought. It’s something the Basotho share with farmers in South Dakota. A friend, who lives on a ranch with her husband and three children, recently wrote about the lack of rains and the worry that brings. But, like the Basotho, she is optimistic and rests all anxiety on a higher power. As I watch the rainfall from my window, I know how happy this water from above will make my host family and the other farmers in the village. They have just planted potatoes. I pray my friend at home soon feels the same relief.
During my time in Africa – both in Lesotho and Niger – I have rarely seen an all-day shower. The sun usually pops out and village life returns to the normal bustle. I hear heard boys whistling at animals and children shouting through the village. My host mother yells something as she returns to daily chores.
Everything is a bit behind in village routine, but all for good reason. South Dakota is a place where you pray for rain at public events (if you have ever heard Jim Woster MC an event, you know what I mean), Lesotho isn’t much different.
The funeral I have to go today, my first in Lesotho, is a tragic one – a woman’s life taken by family. It is the grandmother of a friend, who has experienced all the justified feelings that come with something so unimaginable to people like me. Like all Basotho, his emotions have been tucked away, making it hard for me to know really how he is doing. I don’t know, but even if I did, I couldn’t relate.
As the rain continues to drop and the clouds smack against each other, the funeral’s start time is pushed back. Large, circus-like tents are being soaked and family members are trying their best to finish the food for the feast (In Basotho culture, it is customary that the family provides heaps of food, usually papa and mereoho, for funeral attendees). There is probably no stress that the rain is here. Basotho don’t worry about things like that, they just do.
But there is likely gratitude. For the rain. And for the life. By the end of the day, the rain will be gone, but plants will have the substance to grow and someday flourish into food. And the family will have said goodbye, laying to rest their loved one and starting the process of moving past this horrific event.
The rain marks a beginning while the funeral an end. They are both sad and happy. They are also meaningful events in the circle of life, ones I truly didn’t respect until living with a culture that truly respects them. As I think of the crops near my house being doused, my friend in South Dakota, my friend here without a grandmother and the life that will be praised later today, I too have respect for the rain and the funeral.